Basque double dumps Barcelona and Real Madrid out of Copa del Rey

AFP Madrid, Spain Feb 07, 2020, 07.44 AM(IST)

Real Madrid and Barcelona Photograph:( AFP )

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Two sensational upsets added another layer of excitement to a competition that has been full of surprises this season, with Bilbao and Real Sociedad joining Granada and second division Mirandes in an unfamiliar line-up for the draw on Friday.

Barcelona and Real Madrid both crashed out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night as Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad pulled off a shock Basque double to reach the semi-finals.

Barca was beaten 1-0 by Bilbao at San Mames, where Inaki Williams headed in a dramatic 93rd-minute winner after La Real had seen off Madrid 4-3 in a seven-goal thriller at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Two sensational upsets added another layer of excitement to a competition that has been full of surprises this season, with Bilbao and Real Sociedad joining Granada and second division Mirandes in an unfamiliar line-up for the draw on Friday.

"There have been some surprise results," said Williams. "Sometimes you just have to have faith and heart."  

For Barca, defeat was particularly painful, coming at the end of a turbulent week that saw Lionel Messi engage in a public spat with the club's sporting director Eric Abidal and Ousmane Dembele ruled out, probably for the rest of the season, with another hamstring tear.

Also read: Lionel Messi targets Abidal fueling Barcelona exit rumours

To make matters worse, Gerard Pique hobbled off with his own injury problem in the second half against Bilbao and looks doubtful to face Real Betis in La Liga on Sunday.

Messi's riposte that "everyone should take responsibility for their own decisions" after Abidal suggested Ernesto Valverde was sacked last month because of the players, means Barcelona are in political turmoil off the pitch. 

And the fear is Messi could even leave in the summer by activating a clause in his contract that allows him to walk away from the club for free.

Defeat in the Copa del Rey, a distant third in Barca's list of priorities this season, will not dictate Messi's thinking but another setback certainly adds to the sense of a club currently in a state of crisis.

Quique Setien has lost two of his opening six games in charge, with a Champions League tie against Napoli fast-approaching. The fall-out from another failure in Europe would prove longer-lasting.

"We deserved to go through," said Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu. "But the ambition and attitude I saw on the field encourage me for the league and the Champions League. Success can come."

For a rotated Madrid side, who sit top of La Liga, the loss against Real Sociedad was perhaps less damaging, even if they conceded as many goals in 69 minutes as they had in their last 11 matches put together.

"It hurts, we have to be honest, nobody likes a defeat," said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

Their 21-game unbeaten streak comes to an end after an uncharacteristically careless performance in which a rotated side highlighted the importance of the likes of Casemiro, Raphael Varane and Thibaut Courtois.